New Innovation Lab PHL aims to fill a gap in the development of community entrepreneurs

The college-to-work market pipeline no longer looks like it once did.

Trainer and innovation advocate Neil KleinmanEmeritus Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of the Arts, has worked in higher education for over 40 years, guiding many students into careers in the creative arts and media. But the system put in place to raise students and send them out into the world can no longer work in silos, he believes, especially in the current climate.

“When I was growing up, you got a BA, and there were jobs there, career ladders, and that was true for artists and creatives as well,” he said. Technically. “All of those things fell apart. So I kind of spend this part of my life getting revenge. I was in a lucky generation; life was organized in a way that allowed me and my peers to move on without thinking too much about how we were going to make a living.

Until 2020, Kleinman was the director of UArts’ Center of Corzo, which guided students through the entrepreneurship process. When he retired from his formal position, Kleinman began thinking about how to replicate the kind of support, resources, and connections that an institution of higher learning provides within Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial community.

Neil Kleinman. (via

About a year ago, his intentions began to materialize. Kleinman, together with a growing group of consultants, “experts” in different fields, formed PHL Innovation Lab. This is a free (for now) virtual resource that offers scheduling, office hours, blog-based resources, and networking. The idea came from a need for postgraduate creatives, but the resources are really for everyone, Kleinman said.

In addition to recent graduates, they’ve seen an influx of interest from people in their 40s and 50s who are going through the big resignation or who have been displaced from their traditional jobs. There are also people in their 60s who are retiring and have economic strength, trying to figure out their role in society, Kleinman said.

“It’s for people who are looking for a way forward, to help them take control of their own economic lives,” he said. “Being a beginner is not [just] belong to a certain age group – it could be early twenties, but it could also be middle-aged. It is anyone who is going through a realignment.

Innovation Lab PHL also offers office hours and “idea clinic” programs, supported by local experts in business, marketing, law, education, and other fields. They give at least two hours of their time per month, offering skills, advice or mentorship to people who want to grow in their area of ​​expertise.

There are places that fill a similar need, Kleinman said; he admires NextFab’s makerspaces and community, and knows of universities that provide similar resources. But it aims to create a model that is easily replicable, free, and builds a sense of community beyond private institutions.

“It’s a fragmented and depressing society. What we’re trying to do with the Innovation Lab, I hope other people will steal and replicate,” Kleinman said. “I would like the government to take on some of these roles, but most institutions are unable to do so because they are focused on their own success. But I think you’re going to look at the landscape five years from now and see more of that exist.

If you want to learn more about the Innovation Lab, connect with experts or become one yourself, you can contact [email protected]


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